Approaching Zero Hour For My Appalachian Trail Thru Hike

Traveling Through The Mind’s Fog

The best way for me to describe today is raw emotion and wonder. From telling the dogs and cat I’ll be home soon, to assuring my wife and Mom that I’ll be fine. It is so different than a long deployment in that I have chosen the location and am responsible for all facets. My pace and I will choose each other, thus determining the length of time I’ll be gone. Along with factoring unknowns. Thirty five years I have waited for tomorrow, and the time now seems to be a momentary flash. Did I forget anything? Do I have enough or too much? No sense in worrying now, stuff works itself out.

The Caring and Kindness of Strangers

On my only layover, Salt Lake City, I was at a shop to get a sandwich and coffee. Two pilots were there for the same reason and I asked them to go ahead of me as I was in the midst of my usual indecision. We chatted and trail magic was given before reaching the trail. I shared a bit of my story with these gentlemen. One showed me a bracelet that he wears for PTSD awareness to give voice to people like me. He took the bracelet off, handed it to me and helped me clasp it on my wrist, and thanked me for my service and sacrifice. I promised him that I would wear it up the trail and to Mt. Katahdin. In turn the other pilot bought my breakfast and thanked me in similar fashion. As fate would have it, these fine men were the pilots for my flight to Atlanta. I held back my tears, but barely. The gate crew were amazing to me. So to the gate crew, cabin crew, and flight crew of Delta Airlines Flight DL0793 from SLC to ATL I owe you a debt of gratitude. When I reach the final summit on the trail you be there with me in my heart.

Don’t Forget To Have Your Driver Take You To The Varsity

The simple fare is iconic in Georgia. The welcoming greeting of “What’ll you have”. The Souther author and humorist Lewis Grizzard mentioned this institution numerous times in his books. For me, two Slaw Dogs, a Chili Cheeseburger, Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Pie, and their signature orange drink were the light meal I needed before reaching Amicalola State The memory of the singular deliciousness will sustain me for a good while.

Final Thoughts For Tomorrow

I know what it took to get me here. Much of the last 12 years have been spent healing from two wars. From the times I needed a cane to walk because of some neurological damage from a rocket blast that I masked for 5 ½ years so the military wouldn’t medically retire me, to the months at a time when I would only leave the house for appointments, for the five to thirteen day stretches when I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t hold food down. All of these things bring me here today. Yes I’ve worked hard. I have done none of this alone, others have carried me in the worst times. To my Brothers and Sisters in Arms that I served with, especially in Iraq, Central Asia, and Afghanistan, my love for you is unwavering and eternal. To those whose caskets I have seen off the field and to their families, I hope one day to be worthy of their sacrifice.

For Those Who Travel With a Giving and Open Heart

The Wish

I’ve been thinking for a while about things you already know
So many travels and trails yet I dream of long ago
I don’t want to ask too much and don’t want to be a bother
The memories of family and friends, the place of my mother and my father

Walk with me a little further in the story of my time
Another verse and chapter before my words run out of rhyme
And while the years both dragged and flew
Things that I now know and things that I once knew

Quietness keeps calling through commotion and the noise
So, while I have a few more steps, a smile, and some poise
It is a good time to ask that you think of me now and then
If you will do me one last favor, take me home again

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Comments 30

  • Grandpa Hodag : Jan 4th

    Enjoy! Georgia is awesome. Consider hiking Blood Mountain southbound, by using a hostel and shuttle. Going downhill on the north side can damage older knees. I look forward to your adventures.

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      I definitely have it under consideration. Ice storms last night so I did some southbound miles so as not to get stuck on top.

      Reply
  • JOHN R PAULEY : Jan 4th

    Best of luck and I’ll look forward to reading about your walk.

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      Thank you! I’ll post tomorrow when I’m done for the day.

      Reply
      • Vic : Jan 7th

        Saw the movie ” a walk in the woods” not to long ago. Got me thinking about it. I am an 8 year Army vet. 2006-2014.
        I was imagining doing a 12 mile ruck march every day for 6 months.! I still plan on doing it someday and I commend you. Best of luck. And Hoohah. Carry on brother.

        Reply
  • Phyllis Gentry : Jan 4th

    Prayers for a safe and fun journey! Look forward to hearing more as you get along the trail!

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      Thank you! I’m looking forward to the journey.

      Reply
  • Wanda Hale : Jan 4th

    Looking forward to following your journey.

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      I’ll try to make my posts frequent.

      Reply
  • Paw Patrol : Jan 4th

    Godspeed, Charles. Stay warm out there and HYOH.

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      Much appreciated! One day at a time.

      Reply
  • LUANN CARTER CHAPPLE : Jan 4th

    I’m so proud of you. God is going with you and I hope to see you at Fontana Dam. Much love and prayers.

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      Thanks Luanne! You know the long road I took to get here. A new dawn full of promise each day and steps in the right direction.

      Reply
  • Lisa J. : Jan 4th

    I am so excited for you and will be looking forward to reading about your journey. Thank you for your service!

    (US Army 1992-1998. Daughter of a Vietnam Vet and Granddaughter of a WWII Vet)

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      Thank you Lisa! Thank you for yours and your family’s service and sacrifice. The bond in the Veteran community is unbreakable.

      Reply
  • Robin VanHyning : Jan 4th

    My life has been enriched by knowing you. I will be with you in spirit on this journey.

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      You are a warrior Robin and have been an inspiration to me!

      Reply
  • B. Syck : Jan 4th

    Charles – You are an inspiration! Psalm 121:8, “The Lord will keep your going out and coming in.”

    “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.”

    “the Lord will keep your going out and your coming in” is another way of saying God keeps our lives (verse 7), but with the added, perhaps obvious but crucial promise that God will keep us “from this time on and for evermore.”

    Throughout this psalm, we see examples of God’s “keeping.” In this last verse, God keeps us through…. everything: Walking the Appalachian Trail, family places, our kitchens, our living rooms, our daily chores, our errands, our employment places, our yard work, and all the time we’re in and out of our homes. God keeps us now, and also forever. You and I are inseparable from God, always!

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      I feel the love, grace, and strength Brenda! “I will lift mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.” Much love!

      Reply
  • Cynthia Short : Jan 4th

    I live near the southern entrance to the trail, and my advice to give you the best start and success rate is to not start until near the end of March. There is BAD weather in January and February. My daughter in law’s sister did the trail in 2022. Attempted to start March 15, but had a terrible ice storm, so waited it out at our home for another few days. She did the entire trail in one year, But, near the end of the trail near Maine, she suffered a bad fall and had to return home for 6 weeks to heal. Flew back and finished right before the first snow!
    I wish you all the luck in the world. Be safe!

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      I am stepping carefully and moving at a prudent pace. It takes longer to heal these days.

      Reply
  • val vitols : Jan 4th

    Following you all the way!

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      The fastest known time on these legs.

      Reply
  • Wayne Taylor : Jan 5th

    Good luck my friend, and I look forward to seeing you in SNP/V a when you get here as your shuttler. Catch me on Far out.

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      You’ll most likely be hearing from me. Looking forward to getting up there!

      Reply
  • Mary : Jan 5th

    I am so excited for you. Your doing what I have always wanted to do. I will follow your travels and keep hoping I get to some day. Your an inspiration to so many people. Good luck, have fun and thank you for your service and keeping us safe. Thank you to all that have fought in the wars. God bless you

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      Thank you Mary! It is an honor to have served. I’ll make the most I can of each day and I hope your time to hike the AT is sooner rather than later. Thank you for your kind words!

      Reply
  • Michael Young : Jan 6th

    Charles – was great running into you on the trail the other day! We enjoyed the chat and then it was great to come home and read your story.
    I subbed to your posts and am looking forward to following along on your adventure!
    Wishing you the best!
    -Michael, Michele and Luke

    Reply
    • Charles Gutierrez : Jan 6th

      A joy and blessing to meet all of you! I’ll post every few days and will make the best of each one.

      Reply
  • Yana : Jan 8th

    Good Morning, Charles!

    If you don’t already have a trail name, might I suggest “Guts”, as a tribute to your last name and because of your courage?♡ You are an inspiration to me, as I’d like to someday thru-hike the AT nobo, like you. My family & I are in SWVa and would like to care for you at some point between Dickey Gap & Pearisburg (Virginia), if you’d be willing to allow. I’ve subscribed to your updates, so I can monitor your hiking progress.

    “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
    Isaiah 43:18-19

    Take it easy… and God be with you.

    Your friend,

    ~CzechM8

    Reply

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